Wising up to brain drain game

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 02 Apr 2006


THE usually sedate-looking Malaysia Hall in Bayswater, London, was a hive of activity despite the cold snap lingering on in the early spring. 

Many could still feel the chill from the winter flurries – as the BBC put it – which was the last thing that organisers of the open interviews wanted. 

Yet nearly 300 Malaysian students braved the cold to attend the walk-in interviews conducted by 27 top Malaysian corporations during the week-long event that ended on Wednesday.  

Armed with tonnes of resume and steely determination, many had turned up early, mentally rehearsing their lines for the sessions with their prospective employers. 

They were, after all, on the threshold of another chapter in their life. At the crossroads, if you may say, ready to take on the world. 

Without doubt, the Malaysian companies had stolen a march on their rivals, both local and foreign. They had flown halfway around the world to recruit the best Malaysian talents at source in the UK. 

Indeed, about 40% of those interviewed were offered jobs on the spot, mostly for engineers and accountants. If anything, it goes to show the abundance of skills and expertise available. 

Not surprisingly, several Malaysian top guns had come all the way from Kuala Lumpur just to oversee the interview sessions. 

But it was well worth the effort as they could tap Malaysia’s best and brightest brains in Britain to fill mostly management trainee positions back home. 

Among the corporate giants present were Petronas, Proton, Maybank, AmBank, Genting, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, British American Tobacco, Shell, Motorola, Robert Bosch, CIMB, Nestle and Kurnia Insurance. So were Bank Negera and the Securities Commission. 


Brain Drain 

The presence of the big boys had invariably shown that Malaysian students in the UK were still a rich source of talents and brains. 

It’s no wonder Malaysian corporations are scrambling to hire them. And they’re not just any student but could be future leaders, opinion-formers and policy-makers. 

With the Government’s emphasis to stop the brain drain, these highly sought after intellectuals could play their part by returning to diligently serve the country. 

Then again, the powers that be must acknowledge the “push-pull” factors and seriously value their talents and expertise in order to attract them home. 

Malaysian High Commissioner to Britain Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohamed drove home the message when he made an impassioned plea to Malaysian students to not only look at foreign companies for their career prospects. 

“Malaysian companies can provide equally good, if not better, prospects as many of them have grown in size, stature and are global in their operations,” he said when opening the Malaysian Students Career Fair at University College London last Sunday. 

More than 500 students, including those from Scotland and Ireland, attended the day-long fair which was held in conjunction with the open interviews. 

Abdul Aziz said Malaysian students in the UK were generally excellent in their academic studies and possessed strong “soft” skills. 

Such traits included leadership qualities, the ability to be a team player and good communication skills, he said. 

More often than not, they are almost always targeted by foreign multinationals for their global operations. 

Win-Win Situation 

Abdul Aziz commended the Malaysian companies for their initiative in recruiting Malaysian students in Britain, which he said could help slow down the brain drain. 

“This will go a long way in assisting the government’s human capital development programme to meet the country’s continuing needs,” he added. 

Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Kong Cho Ha, who was also present, said such fairs could form part of the initiatives under the Government’s brain drain policy. 

“We have spoken to numerous experts in trying to formulate the policy and such events can help address the problem,” he added. 

UK Executive Council for Malaysian Students (UKEC) chairman Wan Mohd Firdaus Wan Mohd Fuaad said the companies were generally happy with the quality of candidates who attended the interviews. 

He said most of them were seeking management trainees to fill up posts of engineers and accountants later on. 

BIZ Connexion Sdn Bhd managing director Elia Talib said this year’s fair was bigger and better than the previous one at Warwick University in Coventry. 

“We plan to hold similar fairs in Melbourne and Sydney in August and September this year,” she added. 

She said the company distributed 30,000 free copies of Graduan – a career and employment guide for fresh graduates – every year to more than 250 leading universities and colleges in Malaysia and abroad. 

Make no mistake, the event’s success is a testament of UKEC and Biz Connexion’s leadership and capability in bringing together such an elite group of Malaysian companies and students for a common cause. 

A win-win situation no doubt. The Malaysian corporate sector not only benefits from hiring the crème de la crème of Malaysian students but also help thwart the flow of highly skilled and qualified professionals out of the country. 


  • Choi Tuck Wo is Editor, European Union Bureau, based in London (e-mail: twchoi@thestar.com.my) 

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